January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

NGSS March Madness Edition – a Sports Analogy

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

Imagine this scenario:

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You sign your daughter up to be on an elementary age basketball team. After several weeks, you ask your kid how they like playing basketball. Your kid says they never play basketball, they run drills. You ask the coach when they will play basketball and the coach says, “They aren’t good enough to play basketball yet. They really don’t have the skills down, they can’t dribble well, shoot well, pass well, and can barely run any plays.” Then you ask when they will be ready to play basketball and the coach answers, “Oh probably in 10 or 12 years they will have learned enough to play the game.”

My guess is that you would immediately take your kid out of that team and put her on a team where she got to play. The play wouldn’t be great, the games would be at times painful to watch, but the kids would get the play the game. You can insert any after-school activity into this scenario – art lessons, music, chess club, any sport. We all understand that you have to play the game to learn the game, even if it’s not done with expertise.

Sometimes in school we forget this. In many traditional science courses there was a brief introduction to the “scientific method” at the beginning of the year, where students did an experiment that was likely not related to the content the kids were going to learn. Maybe they did an occasional lab where they had to follow a series of step by step procedures carefully to get the “right” answer. Mostly, for the rest of the year students learned content and skills without getting to “do science.” This is much like being on a basketball team that never plays basketball.

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The NGSS asks us to have students doing science constantly. Every one of the performance expectations specifies which science or engineering practice students should be engaged in. Some of the resistance to NGSS from inside the classroom and outside is based on the idea that students won’t have enough content knowledge to “do science” well. This is from the Fordham Foundation’s unfavorable review of the NGSS:

The purpose of K–12 science standards, therefore, is not primarily to encourage mastery of “practices” or to encourage “inquiry-based learning.” Rather, the purpose is to build knowledge first so that students will have the storehouse of information and understanding that they need to engage in the scientific reasoning and higher level thinking that we want for all students.

This is from a recent Twitter exchange on #NGSSchat:

“what’s the point of chem if it can’t be used to solve real world problems?”

“LOL! You can’t solve ANY problems without a fundamental base!”

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To me this is exactly the same thinking as the imaginary coach who doesn’t think the kids can play basketball until their skills are proficient. Students do need skills and they need knowledge. They need to practice and they need to run drills. But they also need to play, so they will care about the hard work, so they will see how the parts of the game fit together, and so they have fun.

So in the spirit of NGSS, let the students play. Let them question, model, design and re-design, experiment, argue, and explain. It will be frustrating. They will forget everything they have been taught. They will do everything the wrong way. Things might get broken. But they will also do brilliant and unexpected things. You will find yourself cheering. It will be as meaningful and joyful as kids playing ball.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.